Ottawa Chinese Martial Arts
Shaolin Temple (嵩山少林)
is the birthplace of the Martial
Arts and Zen approach to Buddhism. The original Shaolin temple is located
in Mount Song - the central mountain of the "five mountains" of China,
near the city of Zhengzhou, Hunan Province. Mount Song is further divided
into two mountains: the Taishi and the Shaoshi. The name "Shaolin" was
inspired by the lush forest of the Shaoshi Mountain. Another story suggests
that the temple was built on a piece of land that had recently been
ravaged by fire, because the builders planted many new trees. The temple
was thus named Shaolin ("Shao" meaning "young" or "new", and "Lin" meaning
"forest"). This monastery played a prominent role in Chinese history.
For many periods, it was considerd to be an imperial temple where emperors
of the ruling dynasty would ascend to pray on behalf of the people.
However, its fame also brought with it many hardships. During periods
of unrest, the temple often become a focus for the imperial wraith and
retribution. The temple had been destroyed many times only to be rebuilt
Shaolin monks included some of the best generals, ministers, poets,
philosophers, and various famous people. Thus, in Chinese history,
the Shaolin Temple was both a focal point and an education center
for some of China's elite. It truly represents an important Chinese
cultural landmark. The history of the Shaolin temple is long and controversial,
but it is most important to acknowledge its impact on the Chinese
population and the Martial Arts. The main time periods in the history
of Shaolin are:
to the 少林寺志
<Shaolin Historical Records>,
the Shaolin Temple was built in the 19th year
of the reign of Emperor Xiaowen (北魏孝文帝,Taihe)
of Northern Wei in 495 AD for the eminent Indian monk, Bada (跋陀
Batuo, Moha, Pao Jaco) and
his two Chinese disciples (Weiguang, Weineng). Bada was recognized
as a Buddhist scholar in the Hinayana tradition-not as a martial artist.
Any reference to the martial abilities of Bada, his students or the
Shaolin temple at that time is conjecture at best. The Shaolin tradition
recognized their contribution - the inscription 'Saint from the West'
is written on the signboard hung above the Thousand Buddha
Hall in the Shaolin Temple.
(DA MO), 527 A.D
(DA MO) 达摩
is acknowledged as
the First Patriarch of Chinese Zen Buddhism and is credited with
providing the foundations for the Shaolin martial arts. Although
his existence can always be questioned, the following information
is generally accepted as historical fact. He was born to a Royal
Family in Southern India around the year 440 CE. He studied under
Prajnatara, the 27th Patriarch of Indian Buddhism. His teacher gave
him the name Bodhidharma, past Mind Transmission on to him, and
finally made him the 28th Patriarch. Prajnatara instructed him to
transmit Dharma to China, and Bodhidharma traveled east to Guangzhou
(Kwang Chou), Southern China, in 528 AD. He was initially honoured
and welcomed by the Chinese government and obtained an audience
with Emperor Wu Di 梁武帝
of the Liang dynasty. The emperor
did not understand the teachings of Bodhidharma and did not retain
continued to travel north, crossed the Yangtzu River, and eventually
arrived at the Shao Lin Temple. During his life he had very few
disciples, only three of which have made it into the history books.
Bodhidharma transmitted the patriarchy of his lineage to Hui-k'o.
Soon afterwards, Bodhidharma passed into Nirvana. He passed away
Longmen, Luoyang (still in Henan) in 536 AD and was buried
in Shon Er Shan (Bear Ear Mountain). A stupa was built for him in
Pao Lin Temple. Later, the Tang dynasty Emperor, Dai Dzong, bestowed
on Bodhidharma the name Yuen Che Grand Zen Master, and renamed his
stupa Kong Kwan (Empty Visualization).
stories and legend have been told concerning the time that he spent
at the Shaolin Temple:
the cave beneath the Wuru peak and sat before the cave wall for
nine years. When the feat of cultivation, accomplished by facing
the wall, was completed, his image incredibly appeared on the
wall, hence the famous "wall-facing rock" which can still be seen
mediation he fell asleep, he was so angry with himself that he
cut off his eyelids and flung them to the ground, where they became
He saw that
many of the monks at the Shaolin temple were sick and weak and
therefore could not perform their mediation. He introduced a set
of exercises to improve their body and cultivate the spirit. Those
sets of exercises are similar to the postures found in Yoga. They
were recorded in two books: the Shi Sui Ching and the Yin Gin
After his nine-year
mediation, he introduced a new form of Buddhism - now known as
Zen Buddhism, which appeals specifically to the Chinese mind.
A few years
after his death, a Chinese official reported encountering Bodhidharma
in the mountains of Central Asia. Bodhidharma was reportedly carrying
a staff from which hung a single sandal, and he told the official
that he was on his way back to India. When this story reached
his home, his fellow monks decided to open Bodhidharma's tomb.
Inside there was nothing but a sandal.
contributed to Chinese civilization in two different ways: the concept
of Zen Buddhism changed Chinese philosophy, and the integration of
mental training with physical training influenced the future of martial
(Zhou) Dynasty, 570 AD
Empire was concerned about the spread of Buddhism. The government closed
down the Shaolin Temple, and it remained closed for thirty years.
Dynasty (581-618 AD)
the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), Li Shimin, King of the Qin State,
fought with the self-appointed emperor of the Zheng state, Wang Shichong.
Shaolin monks, Zhi Cao, Hui Yang, Tan Zong and ten other monks took
the side of Li and helped him catch the latter's nephew, Wang Renze,
to force the self-appointed emperor to surrender. After Li Shimin was
enthroned as the first emperor of the Tang Dynasty, he rewarded his
followers according to their military merits and contributions. The
Temple received 40 Qing (about 600 acres). The monks also received a
royal dispensation that permitted them to train in martial arts in order
to protect the property. The priest martial artists in the temple were
called "monk soldiers" (Seng Bing).
600 to 1600 AD, the martial arts grew into the most complete system
of Wushu in China, through the Shao Lin Temple. Martial art practitioners
from all over China came to train at the temple, and they all contributed
to the rich heritage of Shaolin.
(Zhue Yuen), a renowned Shaolin monk, traveled across China to study
the status of martial arts. During his travels, he encountered Li Sou,
a famous martial artist from Lan Zhou, Bai Yu-Feng (Li Sou's friend)
and Bai's son. Jueyuan convinced the three martial artists to return
and train at the Shaolin Temple. After ten years of study, Bai Yu-Feng
entered the temple and took the name Qiu Yue Chan Shi. According to
the book Shaolin Temple Record, Qiu Yue Chan Shi was described as an
expert in bare-hand fighting and narrow-blade sword techniques. He was
credited with the improvement of the 18 Buddha Hands techniques into
173 techniques. He also compiled the existing Shaolin techniques and
wrote the book, The Essence of Five Fist. This book described the practice
methods and applications of the Five Fist (Animal) Patterns. The five
animals included: Dragon, Tiger, Snake, Panther, and Crane.
Dynasty ( AD)
1312 AD, Da Zhi, a Japanese monk, came to the Shaolin Temple to learn
the nature of Zen. During the next 13 years, he also learned elements
of the Shaolin martial arts (barehands and staff). In 1324 AD, he returned
to Japan to spread the idea of the Shaolin Temple.
A.D., Shao Yuan, another Japanese monk, came to Shaolin from Japan.
During his stay, he mastered calligraphy, painting, Chan theory (i.e.,
known as Ren in Japan), and Shaolin martial arts. He returned to Japan
in 1347 A.D. Shao Yuan is regard as a "Country Spirit" by the Japanese
Dynasty ( 1644-1911 AD)
Ching government banned the Shaolin Temple and the practice of martial
arts, in general, because of fear of rebellion. In order to preserve
them, Shaolin martial techniques spread to the layman. All martial arts
training in the Shaolin Temple was carried out secretly during this
time. Moreover, the Shaolin monk soldiers had dwindled in number from
thousands to only a couple of hundred, all trained secretly.
1928, there was a battle in the area of the Shaolin Temple. The Temple
was burned for the last time by Warlord Shi You-San's military. The
fire lasted for more than 40 days, and all the major buildings were
turn of the century also led to the popularization of the Shaolin story.
One of the earliest references to "DaMo" or Bodhidharma was in a widely
popular novel, "The Travels of Lao Ts'an", first published in "Illustrated
Fiction Magazine" between 1904-1907. Other stories followed, including:
"Shaolin School Methods", in a Shanghai newspaper in 1910, and "Secrets
of Shaolin Boxing" in 1919. These works of fiction contributed to some
of the mystique of the art. .